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Go shopping for a vacation villa on Italy’s Riviera

Todays Date: January 20, 2019

Around 100 years ago Sanremo was a Mecca for European aristos and the likes of Russian composer Tchaikovsky, who wrote his Fourth Symphony here in 1878 and the chemist Alfred Nobel, who died here in 1896.

A couple of generations later it was to Portofino, some 185km, to which the likes of Frank Sinatra, Brigitte Bardot and Liz Taylor came. Now the faces are those of Denzel Washington, George Clooney and Tom Cruise.

In other words, the coast of Liguria in Italy has for generations exuded the level of star quality that to this day attracts more than five million people annually, making it one of the country’s most visited areas and a favourite among investors on the lookout for attractive vacation homes. For good reason. For a start, this corner of Italy boasts a majestic 280km of coastline renowned as the Italian (or Ligurian) Riviera, spanning the French border at its western end to the picture-postcard villages that form the well-known Cinque Terre, now designated a UN World Heritage Site.

Stef Russo, founder of Italy real estate firm The Property Organiser, reveals:  It is pipped only by perhaps Tuscany when it comes to areas of the country most in demand among our househunters. In addition to the Cinque Terre, its beaches and lovely landscapes, the French Riviera is just a leisurely drive away, there are ski resorts in Piedmont, just 40 minutes away, and it is served by two airports in Genoa and Nice.”

The priciest locations on the seafront for Liguria property are probably the Cinque Terre, Bordighera and Alassio. Prices also rise if you insist on overlooking the sea. The real estate market is kept bullish by demand from well-heeled French, Swiss and Italians. On average you will be asked for in the region of Euro 395,000 for a two-bedroom property within strolling distance of the beach and up to two and a half times that for a villa with sea-view in a similar position.

As usual, canny buyers can pick up bargains by looking around. In Alassio, 90sq m flats overlooking the coast can be discovered from Euro 225,000. And in Bordighera, Euro 345,000 can pay for a two-bedroom apartment again with sea view, although you will have to be content with being somewhat farther out from the coast.

However, within easy reach of the coastal resorts is the mountainous countryside chock-a-block with lovely villages and hamlets. But if you are happy to forgo a sea view, troop just less than half an hour inland, to hamlets such as Apricale, Perinaldo and Isolabona, which is what swathes of American and British bargain-hunters have done in recent times. Here, budget for a one-bedroom apartment to cost around Euro 135,000. Don’t mind getting to grips with a rustic to restore? Then you may get away with Euro 100,000, possibly with up to 2,000sq m of garden thrown in. Given Liguria’s enduring popularity, rental potential is buoyant, in particular if you have bought near the coast. Expect a two-bedroom flat can be let for Euro 1,400 a week in summer and a high-end house with pool up to Euro 3,000.

Among the most attractive resorts on the coast are Alassio, Sanremo and Portofino. Alassio has two miles of sandy beaches and has been a favourite of tourists for over a century while celebrities such as American writer Ernest Hemingway started coming here in the 1930s. Sanremo reeks of timeless glamour and is today best known for its pop event. Meanwhile one of Portofino’s most striking features is multi-coloured rows of fishermen’s houses along its harbour. In high season its swanky fashion outlets packed designer names and the sleek boats moored in its waters say it all about the type of moneyed visitor that holidays here.

However, for rich, natural beauty little tops the five clifftop hamlets that form the Cinque Terre. Some things in life are priceless.

The author specialises in Sicily real estate at Homes and Villas Abroad. She also focuses on luxury property in Abruzzo and houses in Tuscany for sale.

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